Top Stories 2023

The Biggest Portland Transportation News of 2023

PBOT struggles, Rose Quarter snags, and deadly crashes marked a busy year in Portland transportation.

The Biggest Portland City Hall News of 2023

This year, the city managed to help and harm the unhoused, while leaning on pre-pandemic work models to try to revitalize downtown.

The Biggest Portland Labor News of 2023

Move over "hot labor summer." 2023 was a hot labor year for Portland workers.

Portland's Top VILLAINS for 2023—Ranked!

Portland's villains were especially busy this year... here's who caused the most trouble.

The Biggest Portland Police News of 2023

Big police settlements, a new top cop, and whatever happened to oversight? All that and more in the biggest police stories of 2023!

The Biggest Portland Environmental News of 2023

Oil company lawsuits, asbestos rain, and Rubio disappoints activists: A lot happened in 2023's environmental news.

Not sure if you noticed, but the pandemic brought out the best in people, as well as the WORST. Portland's resident right-wingers, rich crybabies, police enablers, and fake Democrats crawled out of the woodwork during the pandemic to take advantage of our city's various crises, and have been especially busy during 2023. 

While there were far too many local bad actors, internet trolls, and violent shitheads to list here, what follows is a ranked list of the people and organizations who spent much of their time in 2023 pushing their own greedy agendas in a cynical attempt to gain power, influence, and (of course) MONEY. 

[Note: If you feel like you've ended up on this list in error, please feel free contact the Mercury complaint department at 1-800-BOO-HOOO.]


NUMBER 6: Lying Big Box Retailers

Since the pandemic, many of Portland's bigger businesses have been trying to squirm out of paying their fair share of taxes by blaming protesters, trash, homelessness, and particularly crime for their financial woes. And occasionally some even chose to abandon a number of their stores, citing a so-called "nationwide shoplifting epidemic" (which actually wasn't a thing... but we'll get to that in a moment). In April 2023, the Pearl District's REI announced they were shutting their doors citing what they called "the highest number of break-ins and thefts in two decades." Coincidentally, they also chose this particular time to throw in the towel shortly after the store's employees announced they would be forming a union—soooooo, make of that what you will. OH, and speaking of weird coincidences, a downtown Starbucks shop also announced their closure in May 2023, citing "safety concerns"... but maybe they were feeling unsafe because their employees were launching a union as well?

But the award for "biggest retail liar of them all" goes to Target, who unceremoniously shuttered three of their tiny Portland stores this year after the big box bosses complained that "theft and organized retail crime are threatening the safety of our team and guests." (Apparently they didn't care about the safety of their team and guests at their bigger format stores, all of which are sticking around.) Unfortunately for their flimsy story, the New York Times published an article saying that the National Retail Federation's previous report of an “organized retail crime” wave was based on faulty data, and in actuality "retail theft has been lower this year in most of the country [including Portland] than it was a few years ago." OOPS. Then there was the released police dispatch data from Target stores around Portland which revealed that their bigger stores had more cases of theft than the smaller ones which were being closed. OOPS. And then it was revealed that Target most likely repeated this lie on a nationwide scale in order to hide their tiny Targets' poor retail performance from stockholders while advancing their shitty legislative agenda. OOPS.

NUMBER 5: The Oregonian Editorial Board

This just in: Newspaper editors have opinions! (Stop looking at meeeeee!) However, few newspaper editorial boards go against the political grain of their city like the Oregonian's editorial board—which may not be surprising since one of them sits on the board of the Portland Metro Chamber (AKA Portland Business Alliance... which, SURPRISE, also made this list). And in 2023 they really flexed their political muscles by a) defending Commissioners Rene Gonzalez and Dan Ryan in their cynical attempt to sabotage the voter-approved Charter Reform; b) called for watering down the voter-approved Measure 110 by recriminalizing drug use, despite the many studies which prove it's a failed practice; c) wrote no less than FIVE screeching editorials lambasting Portland's teachers for daring to go on strike (wonder how the O's overworked employees feel about that?); and d) not only did the Oregonian Editorial Board previously endorse a conservative (Gonzalez) over the city council's first Black woman (Jo Ann Hardesty), in 2023 they also endorsed Derrick Peterson for the Portland Public Schools board, who later had to resign due to ties to a... (yikes)... Christian Nationalist group. (In fairness, the Willamette Week also endorsed both Gonzalez and Peterson... no accounting for taste, I guess!)

Mercury staff

NUMBER 4: People for Portland

While they've been crapping all over Portland's reputation since the pandemic, the dark money group People for Portland (P4P) kept busy in 2023, primarily directing their ire at Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt for the crime of attempting to reverse the racial injustice that permeates the criminal justice system. (I know... HOW DARE HE!) P4P was responsible for two building-high billboards slagging Schmidt, as well as Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, and spreading fear-based lies such as "endless tent cities, encouraging drug addiction" and... LOOK OUT BEHIND YOU! "Murderers on the streets!" 

And because P4P has been such a tireless enemy of Portland, even fellow business community ass-kisser Mayor Ted Wheeler was quoted as saying they've gone too far, noting that “We’re competing against other cities all around the country... and we’re making it really, really easy for our competition when we have billboards that say, ‘We suck really badly here.’” 

But wait, there's more! People for Portland also launched a slanted push poll (gleefully parroted by the Oregonian) designed to cast Schmidt in a negative light, and was wildly offended by the Mercury's "Say Nice Things About Portland" print issue—even tweeting a racist response to a person of color who called them on their bullshit. 

And finally, one would think that a supposed Portland-based organization—which is actually headquartered in Salem—and who purportedly loves the city, would pay their fair share... but P4P co-founder Kevin Looper was sued by the city this year for failing to pay more than $46,000 in unpaid business taxes. (Maybe we should put that on a billboard?)

Courtney Vaughn

NUMBER 3: Portland City Council (and their employers at the Portland Metro Chamber/Business Alliance)

It was a terrible year for Portland's floundering city council—considered by many to be the city's most conservative-leaning council in decades. Instead of spending their time implementing voter-approved progressive policies, time and again they listened to their puppeteers in the Portland Metro Chamber (AKA Portland Business Alliance) and fought to water down the will of the people. These actions include, but are certainly not limited to, pushing for more homeless sweeps (which led to 90% of houseless Portlanders returning to the streets); approving a clearly unconstitutional camping ban that criminalizes homelessness; lobbyingg the state to recriminalize drug use; torpedoing a proposal for a transparency watchdog to oversee council corruption; watering down the voter-approved demand for more police transparency; and—led by Commissioners Gonzalez, Mapps, and Ryan—doing everything they could to slow down and sabotage voter-mandated Charter Reform (more on that later in this list) while ending up looking like clowns in the process. I suspect the Portland Metro Chamber/ Business Alliance are shaking their heads in disappointment and saying, "Welp, I guess you get what you pay for."

Mathieu Lewis Rolland

NUMBER 2: Portland Police Bureau / Portland Police Association

Sometimes the headlines tell the story. For example:

"Portland police went to fewer calls, made fewer arrests in recent years but used force in greater percentage of arrests, data shows."

"How long is Portland’s average police response time? Longer than you think."

"Study says Portland tear gas concentrations far exceeded safe levels in 2020." 

"Some Portland officers responded to LGBTQ+ training with racist feedback, report says."

Federal Judge Questions Portland Police Union’s Demands Over Body Cameras: Union officials believe police should be able to review bodycam footage before filing use-of-force reports."

(Note: When the cops were finally forced to accept body cameras, which departments across the country have been using for years, PPB spokesperson Lt. Nathan Sheppard had this to say: “This is huge and it’s long overdue.” That's funny... according to every report available, the PPB and union has been fighting against the idea of body cams since 2014, when the Department of Justice first ordered them to start using cams.)

• Here's the shot: "Portland Police Bureau Reinstates Officer Brian Hunzeker Who Leaked False Information About Former Commissioner Hardesty."

• And here's the chaser: "Recently Reinstated Police Officer Brian Hunzeker Resigns After City Learns He Was Moonlighting."

However, one of the most shocking and villainous actions perpetrated by the police was revealed in an interview this year with Bike Portland, when Sgt. Ty Engstrom said the quiet part out loud, admitting that the bureau had lied in 2021 about there not being enough officers to enforce traffic laws in order to trick city council into increasing their already bloated budget. “We needed to create a stir to get some change to get them [city council] to fund us back up,” Engstrom said. “I mean that’s the honest truth. I know that could make things more dangerous. I don’t know. But at the same time, we needed some change.”

Once again, because I'm confused: Exactly why does this department deserve our trust, support, and in particular, money?

Gonzalez campaign

NUMBER 1: Commissioner Rene Gonzalez

Okay, out of fairness, Commissioner Gonzalez did not reach the number one spot on our list of Portland villains without help in the form of Portland's other top villains, such as his corporate sponsors on the Portland Metro Chamber/Business Alliance, the police union, People for Portland, and various other rich conservative benefactors. That said, Gonzalez really grabbed the spotlight in 2023 by being both grotesquely mean and hilariously inept.

Gonzalez kicked off his campaign of evil in the freezing month of February 2023 by ordering the life-saving members of the Portland Street Response (PSR) team to stop distributing tents to houseless people in the dead of winter—a move that was roundly condemned by a majority of the PSR team, and anyone having the slightest bit of compassion. Later, Gonzalez and Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone ordered PSR workers to assist the city in their cruel and draconian homeless sweeps—a move that researchers called “antithetical” to the program's success, and which led to the resignation of at least one PSR member. Then incoming fire chief Ryan Gillespie put a hold on ordering clothes and food boxes for houseless people, enacted a PSR hiring freeze, while Gonzalez hit the brakes on expanding  PSR to operating 24-hours per day  in order to "work out the kinks." These actions are suspected to have led to the departure of PSR manager Robyn Burek.

Though Portland Street Response has been lauded nationally as a successful, important program that takes pressure off the police while helping the homeless, Gonzalez has fought it at every turn—and is seemingly doing everything in his power to make it fail... even refusing to meet with constituents who produced more than 10,000 signatures from people who want to know what his plans are for PSR. So far they've been met with nothing but silence from Gonzalez.

As mentioned earlier, the voter-approved Charter Reform process has been fought tooth and nail by Portland City Council, with Gonzalez often leading the charge. In April, he and Commissioner Mingus Mapps tried to sabotage Portland's switch to "ranked choice voting," saying that Portland voters aren't smart enough to understand it. (Editor's note: Thanks for your concern, but we'll be fine.) Later, Commissioner Dan Ryan joined Gonzalez in another attempt to torpedo Charter Reform by attempting to reduce the number of new city council members, nix ranked choice voting, and give the mayor more power. THIS DID NOT END WELL FOR THEM as Portlanders came out in droves to stop this shameless power grab, which led to Gonzalez and Ryan being embarrassed by Mayor Wheeler and Mike Alfoni, the Co-Founder at Ranked Choice Voting Oregon, who correctly informed council that these last-minute requests made them all look like occupants of "a clown car." Later this year Gonzalez admitted to the Willamette Week that trying to sabotage Charter Reform was a mistake, saying "I underestimated the force of [the Charter Reform] coalition and how quickly they can mobilize."

In other words, he fucked around and found out.

Lastly, and despite the fact that he has no real accomplishments to speak of during his tenure, Commissioner Gonzalez announced he will be running for mayor in 2024, laughably labeling himself as a "centrist." If he's uncomfortable running as a "conservative" in liberal Portland, perhaps he'd consider calling himself an "obstructionist"? 


Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who has been absolutely floundering in his role of running the fiscally desperate Portland Bureau of Transportation (while finding money for dismantling bike lanes), also unsuccessfully tried to torpedo Charter Reform, and made a complete ass out of himself by trying to yank away promised funds from Reimagine Oregon, a Black-led racial equity group—because he hadn't done his research. But otherwise... what a great choice for mayor, amirite? 🙄

Timbers and Thorns management have bungled numerous things over the years, and have a scandal-prone history of hiring people accused of sexual abuse. So what did they do in 2023? They hired Phil Neville, as the newest manager of the Timbers, a coach with limited success and a history of sexist tweets. (Who's running their HR department... Donald Trump?)

People who drive big trucks tend to be assholes (prove me wrong), but the asshole truck driver of the year has to be Sidney Mecham, who has been charged with 38 counts after allegedly plowing his truck into the 2023 Rose Parade, narrowly missing several people including children. He pled "not guilty" to the charges, and... oh, what's this? He's also a registered sex offender. (Again, prove me wrong about big pickup drivers.)

A Beaverton teen by the name of Louis Daniel Santiago was arrested this year on the suspicion of several crimes including armed robbery, assault, and drug dealing... but that's not the reason he made this list. He's also got a tattoo on his face that reads, "Bitches Ain't Shit." THAT'S the reason he made the list. 

• While many of these villains have been demonizing homeless folk on the daily, none of them have said a single word about the raccoon that's been terrorizing Northwest Portland’s Alphabet District. The belligerent trash panda was reportedly attacking and biting multiple people and pets in the area during August 2023, and according to neighbors, the city and county have done nothing about it! What's next for the raccoon? Experts agree it'll probably stop biting people and hide its bad behavior in order to launch a successful run for mayor in 2024. (Can't wait for that press conference.)